Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca Movie Review……………………………………………

Rebecca Movie Review

Rebecca is a 1940 mystery film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson. It is such an authentic mystery.

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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

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Rebecca Movie Review……………………………………………

Now of course Rebecca is an accomplished movie on many grounds, but I’ve had an interesting history with it. When I watched it for the first time, I thought it was just solid. Upon second viewing, I thought it was really good and now, upon my third viewing, I really changed my mind and now I think it is a great film by all means. It really grew on me and I have always respected the films that become better and better every time you see it and this is a great example of that phenomenon.

Rebecca is above all else a great story. It follows a young woman who becomes the second wife of an aristocrat and comes to live in his mansion. But she can’t escape the ghost of his previous, deceased wife whom the servants absolutely adored. It is a testament to Hitchcock’s ingenuity that we never see Rebecca in the film and yet we feel like we met her as she is always present in the conversations between the characters. That created such a weird, even creepy feel to the movie.

I really liked both of the main characters and their relationship is strongly developed. Favell is another strong, sneaky character played wonderfully by typically cold and malicious George Sanders. He was perfectly cast for this role and he delivered in spades. But of course Mrs. Danvers is the true standout character and she is one of Hitchcock’s most menacing and unforgettable villains. Some of her scenes were extremely creepy and atmospheric and I loved that her fascination with Rebecca drove her every move.

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Rebecca Movie Review……………………………………………

Judith Anderson is suitably theatrical in the role and this is the best type of theatrical performance, the one that fits and lifts the role. She gave such an outstanding performance that should have brought her a supporting Oscar. Laurence Olivier is quite good, but Joan Fontaine deserved her Oscar nomination and she maybe even should have won. Despite a couple of overly emphasized moments, she mostly excelled in a difficult main role. The acting in this movie is truly top-notch.

Rebecca succeeds as a gothic tale in spades. It is actually one of the finest mystery films that I have ever seen as it is just always riveting to watch and wonderfully atmospheric. The plot unfolded in a really well crafted and structured manner and all of the twists and turns were satisfying and clever.

I have rarely seen a better looking movie than this one. The cinematography is excellent and some of the imagery here is just unforgettable and I will remember some scenes for years to come. But the art direction is just stunning as the house Manderley is absolutely magnificent to behold with its gothic look and we explore many of its parts leading to it becoming a character in its own right. The score is also fantastic and of course the direction from Hitchcock is brilliant.

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Rebecca Movie Review……………………………………………

Let’s talk about some of Rebecca’s flaws. Now I still stand by my original assessment that this is not one of Hitchcock’s best films. It is on the list, but certainly not in the top five. And it did not deserve to win Best Picture in an especially strong year for film, ridiculously strong actually. In many other years, yes, but here it was undeserved.

The pacing in particular is troublesome. It takes its time to get there owing to a slow start and some of the scenes were a bit too long in my opinion. The third act of the film I really liked, but it still felt like a different movie with its courtroom drama elements and I can’t help but wonder what this movie would have turned out had the story remained the same as it was in the first half. I definitely liked the conclusion and the ending is particularly striking, but it did have a bit too many twists in it and the final twist, although good, is a bit too convenient.

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Rebecca Movie Review……………………………………………

But it is mostly a very good, respectable film that is even artistic in its look and very original and memorable in its story. It is one of the most successful gothic mysteries ever put on screen. It was nominated for eleven Oscars but only won two and the cinematography win is much deserved. But production design as well as both of the actresses should have also won in my opinion.

Rebecca isn’t well paced, but it is such a strong mystery that is one of the finest ever put on screen. It isn’t one of Hitchcock’s best, but it comes close with top-notch performances, an unforgettable and creepy villain in Mrs. Danvers, very involving and well crafted plot and many memorable scenes that stay with you. It is also one of the finest looking black and white films thanks to some brilliant imagery, an even artistic look to it and amazing production design. Atmospheric and authentic, it is a thoroughly delightful gothic mystery.

My Rating – 4.5

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Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Picnic at Hanging Rock Review………………………………………………………………..

Picnic at Hanging Rock Movie Review

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a 1975 Australian mystery film directed by Peter Weir. It is an authentic, but ultimately disappointing movie.

It follows the fictitious disappearance of several schoolgirls and their teacher during a picnic at Hanging Rock in 1900. First I have to say that I found both its premise and setting very authentic and quite fascinating. But the execution is unfortunately weak and it ruined what could have been a special movie. It was just way too slow paced, dull and frankly at times pretentious to be enjoyed more.

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What we see and what we seem are but a dream,

a dream within a dream

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Picnic at Hanging Rock Review………………………………………………………………..

The characters were particularly uninspired and although well acted by its cast, I found none of them to be remotely interesting or memorable. The direction from Peter Weir is good, but the pacing is off. The movie isn’t long, but it is boring which is a thing that bothered me the most about it. Its slow pacing and some very long, dull takes definitely led to that feeling.

Picnic at Hanging Rock shines in the technical aspects. The cinematography is absolutely terrific and I loved both the camera movements greatly employed here and its scenery. The scenery is gorgeous and watching this eponymous setting being brought to life was fascinating. Both the setting and the time period are quite interesting. And the score is really good and very atmospheric. The entire movie definitely has an ominous, very mysterious quality to it which is why it somewhat succeeds as a solid mystery film. It’s just the execution of its plot and characters that ruined it for me.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock Review………………………………………………………………..

The movie starts really well, but its second and third act disappointed me as it was just not that involving. There were much better ways to tell this story and the filmmakers unfortunately decided to tell it in a rather ordinary, only at certain times inspired, manner. The emotion is lacking and the film is rather cold. In the end, Picnic at Hanging Rock was an immensely disappointing experience for me as I expected great things about it based on its premise and status, but I was just terribly let down.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen recently. The setting is very intriguing, the cinematography is superb as is its score and it is mysterious and atmospheric, but the characters are so uninspired, the story isn’t particularly well told and the pacing is very slow leading to a dull, somewhat pretentious and ultimately immensely disappointing film.

My Rating – 3

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Mulholland Drive (2001)

Mulholland Drive Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Mulholland Drive Movie Review

Mulholland Drive is a 2001 mystery thriller film directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring. It is such a mediocre, extremely overrated movie.

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When you see the girl in the picture that was shown to you earlier today, you will say, “this is the girl”.

The rest of the cast can stay, that’s up to you. But the choice for that lead girl is NOT up to you.

Now… you will see me one more time, if you do good.

You will see me… two more times, if you do bad. Good night

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Mulholland Drive Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

The plot of Mulholland Drive is non-existent and therefore I won’t go into it thoroughly. This is one of those movies that have very difficult to understand narrative, but that narrative is either pointless or frankly annoying and that ‘artsy, cool’ presentation of it is just a facade. The movie may fool some, but it never fooled me as I found it pointless and stupid from the get-go.

The characters are so underdeveloped and basically non-entities. Rita is typical and Betty is so inherently problematic. I get that she is naive and a warm person and although she is an archetype from a different time, those women exist and portraying them isn’t a problem. But what is a problem here is how she is stupid when it comes to Rita and I never really understood why she would help her, let alone get entangled in all the crap that goes with her. And the rest of the characters are all not worth talking about as they are totally unimportant.

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Mulholland Drive Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

The thing that infuriated me most in Mulholland Drive has to be its lesbian relationship. I found the two falling in love with each other totally ridiculous and never real. I found it to be a product of previous eras, mainly the 80s and 90s, where the director lets one of his fantasies unfold on screen and we get the fantasy and fetish instead of an actual loving relationship. That is so frustrating to me and a big reason why this movie feels dated, even for its time.

I never found its noir elements particularly present to call it a neo-noir film. This is basically a mystery and even more so a thriller, a very annoying psychological, erotic thriller. But I have to admit that as a mystery, it works, at least to some degree. Some of the elements and scenes here were so memorable and very intriguing. The first half has that wonderful, otherworldly mysterious quality to it which is why I found its second half to be unfortunate. Whereas the first half is conventional, well made and even involving, the second one abandons any plot structure, meaning or point and it becomes a giant, overly artistic, incomprehensible and ultimately mediocre mess.

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Mulholland Drive Movie Review………………………………………………………………..

Naomi Watts gave a solid performance in an unflattering role and the others did a good job as well. But the characters are so poorly written that the actors are wasted. The tone is pleasantly mysterious at first until deciding to go into a needlessly trippy territory. The movie is original, but mostly in a bad way. And I wouldn’t call its running time excessive as there is a lot going on here to justify it, but the second half is so infuriating and uninvolving that I found it dull nonetheless. Needless to say, this is far from the director’s best works and it is one of the most overrated films of the 21st century.

Mulholland Drive has some intriguing sequences and the first half is pleasantly mysterious, but the second half is so pointless and stupid and the movie is mostly a mediocre effort from the director with such an infuriating and dated ‘artistic’ approach to it, poor characters and a very annoying outcome. It is one of the most overrated films of the decade.

My Rating – 2.5

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Murder! (1930)

Murder! Movie Review……………………………………………………..

Murder! Movie Review

Murder! is a 1930 mystery film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall. It is one of the director’s weakest films.

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I assure you, Inspector,

I’m not the other woman in this case

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A young actress is murdered and the woman found there is found guilty. However, one juror doesn’t believe that and he starts to investigate who is the actual murderer. Let me first say that this plot is definitely not bad, in fact it is quite solid. But it is also quite basic and its execution is particularly troublesome. The movie is just so tedious and slow that I just wasn’t invested in it. Also, this is a detective mystery and although I have nothing against that genre, I feel that Hitchcock is much more suited for thriller and it shows here in this lackluster film.

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Murder! Movie Review

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Diana is a typical character, but John Menier is quite good as our protagonist. As for Fane, he is such a troublesome villain. The portrayal of a mixed-race homosexual trapeze artist may have been risqué back then, but now it is quite offensive and very dated. His character is definitely the worst aspect in the movie.

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Murder! Movie Review

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Murder! is very well acted with Herbert Marshall expectedly being the highlight. He is always such a good actor and he showed that here as well with a very good performance. The directing from Hitchcock is problematic. It is solid, but never as great as you would come to expect from the master of suspense. Yes, some scenes are definitely Hitchcockian such as that intense and memorable ending, but this flick is mostly devoid of his usual flair and style which is one of the things that bothered me most.

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Murder! Movie Review

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Murder! is also never particularly original or unique in its plot which is too basic and just serviceable. But it does have good cinematography as it is well filmed and some scenes do have some interesting shots that are quite memorable. But the tone is all over the place. The tone here is very odd for a Hitchcock film, uncharacteristically and annoyingly so. It is certainly comedic and even too comedic for my taste as it wasn’t funny, but was definitely meant to be lightweight and funny. It had that very odd feel to it that really took me by surprise and I honestly didn’t like it at all. Quite on the contrary, I found it to be frustrating and very disappointing as the more serious approach would have led to a better film.

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Murder! Movie Review

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The courtroom drama elements are solid, but there aren’t enough of them here. The score isn’t there and the sound quality was quite weak. But the dialogue is definitely solid and the main character in particular is fine to follow and likable. The editing is okay and the running time is short, but the movie was still boring to me, especially its first half which really felt slow and uneventful. As for the second half, it is definitely an improvement as it had a more serious, intense approach to it and was much more entertaining and memorable. Overall, Murder! is a very disappointing, frustrating experience and one of the weakest and most flawed films from the director without any doubt and such a giant step back from ‘Blackmail‘ and ‘The Lodger‘.

Murder! is a very disappointing and weak movie that has a solid plot, a good turn from Herbert Marshall and a memorable ending, but the tone is very comedic and odd, there aren’t enough trademark directorial touches here, the film is quite dated and offensive in its villain character and it is just never really exciting or engaging. It is definitely one of the weakest films from Hitchcock.

My Rating – 3

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The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

The Great Mouse Detective Review

The Great Mouse Detective Movie Review

The Great Mouse Detective is a 1986 animated mystery comedy film directed by Ron Clements and with the voice work of Vincent Price. It is the 26th Walt Disney animated feature and such a solid, often overlooked movie.

It follows a mouse detective who along with his friend doctor must chase a villainous rat and rescue the father of a little girl. The plot itself is both the film’s weakness and strength. Let me explain. It is good because it is very mysterious and adventurous, filled with excellent set design and a great use of various locations. It is also very engaging and really charming. However, it is derivative and there lies its problem. It is basically a Sherlock Holmes movie, albeit a family-friendly version with mice. And though it can be considered to be a wonderful homage, it is still too much influenced by it with the characters themselves basically being the same. I would have liked to have seen at least some change in its storytelling, but it unfortunately remained the same which is very lazy from the screenwriters.

The Great Mouse Detective’s character development is one of its strongest suits. Yes, these characters are basically Sherlock Holmes characters, but they are still very charming and endearing with the new ones being very good as well. Basil is excellent as this cocky detective that is seemingly cold, but with his heart still in the right place. As for Dawson, he’s also pretty good. I expected more from him, but he’s mostly well utilized and the relationship between the two is the highlight. Olivia Flaversham is a likable, but forgettable child character.

Professor Ratigan is such a terrific villain! He is one of the most underrated and easily one of the better villains in the Disney canon as he is so good. Vincent Price did a great job in this voice role, but the character itself is really well written and he is such a wonderfully theatrical, yet menacing villain that posed real threat to our protagonists. He is easily the finest and most memorable character in the entire film. Toby is somewhat annoying as a dog stereotype ruled by mice which was weird, but Fidget was pretty good as a henchman and I liked Felicia’s presence quite a bit. And the Queen was also solid.

The animation is quite good here. It isn’t particularly inspired or memorable with the character designs being mostly typical, but Ratigan is exquisitely animated and his transformation near the end is phenomenally done. That whole ending benefits from some excellent use of CGI and the clockwork scene is gorgeous to look at. The film is also meticulously detailed with some great interiors. The animation is quite solid, but admittedly forgettable.

The soundtrack is pretty good and underappreciated. Goodbye, So Soon is solid and accompanies that iconic intense sequence really well. Let Me Be Good To You is also quite good and so catchy and fun. It also accompanies a memorable and really entertaining and well executed scene. The songs are really put in some great scenes here which is great. And of course the standout song is The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind. I just love this song as it is not only incredibly catchy and well executed, but also because it perfectly showcases its villain and presents his personality and goal in the quickest way possible. And it is just so damn entertaining. The songs are really good here, there are just three of them, but all three are quite good. As for the score, it is also pretty good with some quite memorable moments here and there.

The Great Mouse Detective is an incredibly effervescent and likable movie that isn’t the most ambitious excursion, but is so much fun and has a lot of charm. The highlights for me, apart from those songs and their scenes, are the opening scene and the ending. The opening is so intense and very mature. It is very atmospheric and it sets up this story perfectly, ending in some really good, fittingly retro title score. The ending is so heartwarming. When Basil says goodbye to Olivia, that moment is touching. But the entire finale with the doctor staying and becoming his personal assistant is such a great conclusion to this story, the one that emphasizes their friendship and partnership perfectly. The clockwork scene is also very well executed and even intense.

Yes, this film has some pretty good action sequences. The plot itself is forgettable and unfortunately the entire movie is like that which is its biggest problem, but the action is really well done and always fun to watch. The pacing is also pretty good and although leisurely, I liked that about it as it fits the mood of the story. It is well scored and solidly animated, but the directing could have been better and the film could have used more ambition and more interesting and unique plot points to it.  The humor is solid, but there aren’t that many funny moments here. The imagery is great with some locations being really memorable and detailed. The dialogue is also quite solid and it has some fine lines in it. The film is somewhat clever, but typical and could have used more energy and originality in its execution. But it admittedly has a big heart with some scenes being incredibly heartwarming. And it is also very charming. The Great Mouse Detective isn’t one of the more memorable Disney flicks, but it is still quite solid and certainly one of the better 80s efforts from Disney. It isn’t on the level of ‘The Fox and the Hound‘ of course, but it is better than ‘The Black Cauldron‘ and it is certainly superior to ‘Oliver & Company’.

The Great Mouse Detective is admittedly too familiar and lazy in its storytelling and the film is very forgettable among the Disney flicks, but it is still a solid little film filled with some great characters with the villain being superb, excellent score, some good songs, a great charming tone to it and well executed action sequences. It is forgettable, but endearing and charming and having some great scenes here and there.

My Rating – 3.5

 

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Mr. Holmes (2015)

Mr. Holmes Movie Review

Mr. Holmes Movie Review

Mr. Holmes is a 2015 drama mystery film directed by Bill Condon and starring Ian McKellen. It is quite a good movie and such a pleasant surprise.

Holmes is now 93 and he tries to recall the details of his final case. This film is very interesting and such an unusual Sherlock Holmes flick. It focuses more on drama instead of detective mystery and I absolutely loved that as it led to such great character development and an emotionally engaging approach.

But that formula does have its flaws and that is its mystery. The whole Japanese subplot is lacking when compared to the bee one because the mystery is just never as interesting or as involving as it should have been. It does have some fine moments here and there and its details led to that beautiful ending, but this is still the weaker subplot here and the film’s biggest detractor.

But that second subplot is just wonderful. I loved the characters in particular. The mother was too vilified at first, but she thankfully got better treatment as the story progressed. Roger is so good as this incredibly smart British kid and Holmes is fantastic here. The film is the best when it deals with his problems from mind deterioration and aging to his last case to the things that he regrets. There are so many scenes in Mr. Holmes that are just so heartwarming and the highlights are the scenes with Roger, the dialogue he has with the mother near the end and of course that tender finale. He is such a complex, fascinating character and the best reason to see the film.

But the relationship between Roger and Holmes is so endearing and their scenes also have such a wonderful and charming humor to them as well. I just loved that relationship and it is the heart of the film. The acting is great as both Laura Linney and Milo Parker did such a good job and of course Ian McKellen is terrific in his role. He not only delivered in those more dramatic and emotional scenes, but he was also perfectly cast as he suits this role so well.

Mr. Holmes is leisurely paced and although that was problematic, especially in the first half, the film is still never boring as it plays as a character-driven, warm drama that I love. The dialogue is really good and the tone is great as it wonderfully shifts from dramatic to comedic. The score is also solid and of course the film is visually magnificent with such wonderful natural scenery and some great interiors as well. It is always beautiful to watch and it is so well shot. The first act is never as good as the other two, but that third act is just perfect as it ends both of its subplots in such a satisfying manner. In the end, Mr. Holmes is such a good movie that caught me by surprise as I never expected it would be this good, this heartwarming and this charming. It has such an immense charm and coziness factor to it that it is a perfect film for Sherlock Holmes fans and also for those who aren’t ones as well.

Its Japanese subplot is lacking in comparison to the bee one, but Mr. Holmes benefits from such a unique approach with a larger focus on character-driven drama instead of detective mystery and I loved that about as it led to such good character development, terrific character interactions, some heartwarming scenes and a moving ending. It is also a beautiful to look at and charming movie and overall such a pleasant surprise.

My Rating – 4

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight is a 2015 western mystery film directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins. It isn’t one of the director’s best works, but it definitely is a very good movie.

It follows eight strangers who seek refuge in a stagecoach lodge. This film has a very interesting structure. First of all, it is very episodic and is divided by chapters, but that works wonderfully. It also has an intermission and is overall filmed in an old-fashioned way which I appreciated a lot and was such a great nod to the classics. The running time is around three hours and it is never at all boring which is an incredible achievement having in mind its length.

But I loved how in the first half not much happens and it is all just a build-up to the action-filled second half. But it works as it is never tedious, but strengthens the character development and relationships between the characters and it has such a great attention to detail which is one of the film’s strongest points. I loved the beginning and I loved how it ended, but that whole first half to me was the finest as it is so incredible and so involving whereas the second half has its many problems, but more on that later.

I loved the characters in The Hateful Eight as all of them have their moments and all are very well realized. Major Warren has to be the highlight as he is such a fun, likable character. He’s a great Tarantino protagonist – heroic, but also realistic. Chris Mannix is also superb and is one of the funniest of the bunch. The relationship between the two is absolutely fantastic with the film’s last moments being really good. John Ruth is also excellent and the most realistic character here. Daisy is such a crazy woman and a very unique and interesting character, especially for a western. Bob is somewhat underused as this mysterious Mexican man, but he’s still pretty good and at times quite creepy. Oswaldo Mobray is too theatrical, but still fun and at times funny. Joe Gage is the weakest link whereas General Sanford is quite good and the scenes between him and Warren are so good. And others are not that important for the story.

The acting is magnificent and one of the movie’s biggest selling points. Kurt Russell is very good, but it is Walton Goggins who is the most underappreciated actor here as he gave such a stupendous performance and was always believable. Jennifer Jason Leigh is of course fantastic as she steals every scene she is in and is believable in this difficult role of a crazy and wild murderous woman. And her facial expressions are excellent. But to me, she isn’t the highlight. Samuel L. Jackson is the best one here and is so underrated as an actor and especially in this role which just might be his best yet. He is the protagonist here and has the most screen time and delivers with a fantastic, all-around satisfying performance with a contagious laughter and many great moments.

Now for the flaws. Unfortunately, the second half ruined this movie for me. Quentin Tarantino is a fantastic director and here he shows his great style and superb storytelling, but he needs some restraint as his annoying tendency to go into overly disgusting territory hurts his movies a lot. The action here is very entertaining and satisfying, but there was no need for that much blood and gore. It was excessive, inappropriate and just weird and tonally different from the rest of the movie. This is quite possibly his darkest and most brutal film to date and I appreciate that when characters are concerned, but the imagery was too gruesome and just unnecessary and way over-the-top. The whole movie felt like a beautiful mix of western and mystery until it just went into this stupid horror territory which greatly diminished its impact.

The Hateful Eight is absolutely gorgeous to watch. The cinematography is superb and the scenery is so good. I wish that more westerns were set in winter as that period is just phenomenal for the genre. The attention to detail here is overwhelming which greatly helps its mystery which is really well crafted. And although I predicted a lot of the twists and turns here, they were still so well realized and the build-up is terrific. The set design is also splendid and Minnie’s Haberdashery just might be one of the best interior in a film ever as it is so incredible, very realistically depicted and with great detail and style. The whole flick is very polished and stylish with a superb direction and acting and excellent screenplay. It is also very well edited with the chapter times and flashbacks being extremely well handled.

Of course, the dialogue is absolutely fantastic as is always the case with Tarantino’s films. It is so grounded in reality and meticulous in its delivery and accents while also being very playful and humorous. The humor is expectedly terrific and I laughed out loud a lot during the movie as most of the characters have their funny lines and the racist remarks in particular are so funny. The score disappointed me a lot. It is definitely good and even great at times, but it is incorporated poorly into the picture with often ridiculously accompanied and jarring in tone sequences. The tone is well handled and professional, the film is visually stunning and it is memorable and always entertaining with never a dull moment. It is inferior to the director’s previous works as both ‘Django Unchained‘ and ‘Inglourious Basterds’ are better, but it is still very good and despite having some big issues, it is mostly great to watch. Quentin Tarantino knows how to make a western and I hope he will continue to do so.

The Hateful Eight is such an entertaining and visually pleasing film. The characters are so well developed and they have great interactions, the performances are superb with Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh being the highlights and it is such a great mix of western and mystery with a great attention to detail, scenery and editing. The second half ruined it for me as it was too gory and over-the-top plus the score is poorly incorporated into the film, but this is still such a funny, playful and always involving film and a great showcase for Quentin Tarantino’s talents as a director.

My Rating – 4

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Crimson Peak (2015)

 

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak Review

Crimson Peak is a 2015 gothic horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston. It is an unforgettable and truly unnerving experience.

It follows a young woman named Edith who marries a strange man and goes to live with him and his sister in their haunted house. This story is such a riveting one, always fascinating and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. I like its incorporation of different genres and I am frustrated that people don’t know how to classify it properly. To me this is primarily a horror movie, a gothic horror tale that at times incorporates the genres of romance as well as mystery. That I absolutely loved as all of those genres are properly executed and I loved all of those elements. The romance is truly there and the emotion is definitely felt whereas I also adored its mysterious aspects with the unraveling of a mystery in the film’s second half.

But as for the horror elements, Crimson Peak works wonderfully! This is one of the most purely unsettling and just simply terrifying films I’ve seen in years. I liked it because it uses many different types of scares from jump scares to atmospheric thrills to pure character-driven terror and madness. And all of these work as all are executed marvelously. The jump scares are mostly present in the first half of the film and there were a couple of times when I was startled by those. The ghosts are so authentic in this picture as, without spoiling anything, they are used differently and they matter to the story’s development. And their design was great. The atmosphere is also superb mostly due to incredible technical achievements, but more on that later. You feel as you’ve been transported to that time period and I absolutely love horror movies set in the past as those have the most potential to be great as well as artistic. But the atmosphere is great, always dark and always frightening and mysterious, making you feel unease.

But the best horror is that felt by the characters’ actions and behavior. “You are monsters! Both of you!” – those words said by our protagonist Edith Cushing best exemplify the inherent nature of despair and madness in Crimson Peak. The characters have depth and they have their backstories which explain why they arrived to their current state which is great because it shows the film’s cleverness and realism. But those moments are the greatest, the moments in which you feel for the main character and in which you are appalled at the actions and behavior of the villains who are just superb here. The writing here is just gorgeous.

The character development is splendid with every character properly developed. Edith is a great protagonist because while being too naive at times, she is also very smart at other times and her story here is tragic and you really root for her. Dr. Alan is solid for the little screen time he got and Edith’s father is very grounded and such a caring person. But this is the film about the Sharpe siblings and they own the whole thing. Thomas is such a mysterious figure and he is very unpredictable as well. He has a great third act with a great revelation and the relationship between him and Edith is such a crazy, but fascinating one. As for Lucille, she is without a doubt the highlight in my opinion, she is mad, crazy, despicable and such a great screen presence and such a fascinating, terrifying character that is truly one of the best villains of recent years.

The acting is phenomenal across the board. But this is above all such a tremendous casting at display because all of these three actors are in their looks and manner of speaking so perfect for these roles set in the past, this time in the 19th century. Mia Wasikowska is once again superb for this role and she did such a great job with it. She was believable in every scene which is great because her character has an emotional rollercoaster throughout the whole flick. Tom Hiddleston is mesmerizing in his role and this is probably the best I’ve seen from him. He plays the part beautifully and gives a powerhouse performance.

But Jessica Chastain is one of the reasons Crimson Peak works as a horror movie. She gives such a subtle yet in the end over-the-top performance which is perfect for this role. Her British accent is solid and her manner of speech and her facial expressions are superb. She created this fantastic villainous character and gave her a soul as well. She is definitely one of my favorite actresses of all time and in my opinion the best actress working today.

Now the movie does have a couple of faults mainly the third act which goes into some unwelcome, disgusting territory with too much gore and the predictable nature of the storyline is evident. Yes, it is expected, but it is still riveting to follow. And although some scenes are repulsive and the taboo subject that revealed itself in the last parts is always unfortunate to me, but at least it was explained psychologically which shows the movie’s clever script. But despite those flaws, this is mostly a tremendous piece of work and although it of course cannot be compared to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth‘, that is a stupid comparison as that movie is one of the best ever made and comparing would be unfair. But overall it is one of the very best del Toro’s films to me as it shows his strengths as a director wonderfully and he did such a great job with it.

Besides the direction which is fantastic, Crimson Peak is technically polished from every aspect. This is the kind of film that is just beautiful to look at with fantastic cinematography, arresting visuals and just breathtaking imagery. The castle or the house to be exact is just gorgeous to look at with stunning attention to detail and the costume design is beautiful to behold. The interiors as well as exteriors are wonderful to look at and the movie is pleasantly dark and I would have to say even artistic as to me it felt like a moving picture at times. I would definitely call it art. But its detailed, meticulous approach is evident and the film has imagination to spare. The way the house works with its different rooms and floors, elevator and cellar is so thrilling to behold. As for its score, it is simply phenomenal and one of the best scored movies of the year without any doubt. It is perfectly fitting for its genre with its eerie nature and is just so memorable at times. The tone is deftly handled ranging from horrific to emotional and romantic. The dialogue is superb and even the humor is present here, the kind of dark and sinister black humor that is rarely in the movie, but that still improves the experience to some degree. And the film does have a heart for sure with such a satisfying and moving ending. It is also wonderfully edited, never boring or too fast-paced.

With arresting visuals, amazing acting across the board, breathtaking imagery, sinister atmosphere and wonderfully developed characters, Crimson Peak is at times a bit predictable and also often too repulsive, but it is always riveting and always frightening, atmospheric and filled with utter despair and madness. It is one of the most authentic-looking movies of recent years and one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had in a while. But it is above all a truly unnerving, deeply unsettling experience.

My Rating – 4.5

 

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Paper Towns (2015)

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Review

Being probably the movie that surprised me the most with its quality, Paper Towns is a 2015 teen comedy drama film which is also a mystery. It is based on the John Green book of the same name and it stars Nat Wolff in the lead role.

It is about Quentin, a young man who spent his childhood being infatuated with his mysterious neighbor Margo. At the beginning of the film, she comes to his house for help. He accompanies her on her quest to humiliate the friends and boyfriend who betrayed her. After that event, she disappears. With a help from his loyal friends, he sets out on a road trip journey in order to find her following her clues. The story is simply fascinating and one of the most well-written and sophisticated teen movies probably of all time. It is so clearly and evidently split into three parts, the three-act structure has rarely been so noticeable. That is a problem a bit as it seems disjointed and the jarring shift of tone probably doesn’t help much as well. However, although it may seem to some that Paper Towns is three different movies, to me it did not end that way. I thought it connected quite well, despite how different the three acts are.

The first act is the most entertaining and the characters are wonderfully introduced. I love all the actions they did and it is so fun to watch. The second act is the most adventurous with a strong dash of mystery thrown in for good measure. The mystery aspect is very well realized and quite believable whereas the road trip does not seem cliched at all, despite being a genre convention. This is the part where the supporting characters and the humor shine the most. As for the third act, it is without a doubt the finest. Pure, hard-hitting, emotional drama takes place in front of the mystery and comedy here. And it is incredibly good!

I like the resolution and the whole last part as it is so unconventional and the opposite of cliche that it really was refreshing to see. And so brave and clever. But what takes it to the next level is its absolutely amazing sophistication, clever themes and above all, some incredibly powerful, truthful and observant quotes. This is not only relevant, but important and so realistic. It hit me personally as I connected to Margo’s character in her thinking so much. The speech in which she says that she wants to lead her own destiny instead of following conventions like marriage and job is so inspiring and downright real that it hit me on multiple levels and stayed in my thoughts afterwards.

The characters are phenomenal across the board as is the acting. Quentin is the most grounded character but his resolution is so realistic and important as well. His behavior may seem annoying to some, but he is a realistic teenager and I liked that a lot. Margo is absolutely amazing and the highlight here despite the protagonist’s more development and evident screen time. But that is the point. Her character is so well-written and just plain fascinating that such a short screen time did not hurt her at all. She is also an incredibly strong female character and refreshingly atypical. Lacey is so charming and likable. And her line where she states that she is more than just a pretty face is some powerful stuff as well.  Now, Ben is evidently and even too overtly a goofy sidekick, but what is important is that he serves his purpose which means that he is funny, at times even hilarious, definitely bringing a lot of pathos and comic relief to the picture. Angela is okay for the time she got, but Marcus I did not like at all. He was too annoying and too nerdy in my opinion.

The acting is fantastic as I said. Nat Wolff is so surprisingly good and gives a grounded and respectable performance. Cara Delevingne is terrific of course, bringing a lot of charm and charisma to the table. And all the actors who portrayed Quentin’s friends did a really good job in their roles. The directing is also very good as is the pacing. The movie is incredibly smart, but also emotional and at times even heartbreaking. It made me smile and almost cry even. I also liked the score, but the tone is as I said too jarring and definitely was felt which is not a good thing. Humor is terrific with at times hilarious sequences. However, I think Paper Towns would have been better with more serious and less comedic approach and that small flaw as well as the jarring tonal shift is what makes this movie miss the highest rating in my book. But not by a long margin and that is astonishing that it ended being so unexpectedly good. It is not predictable whatsoever and the dialogue is incredibly clever. And comparing it to ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘, I would say that it is a much better film, though the aforementioned film is quite good. But this is a whole new level of quality exhibited.

With fantastic and all likable characters, terrific humor with some hilarious sequences, amazing themes, excellent incorporation of comedy and drama as well as mystery and adventure, fantastic acting across the board and an incredibly sophisticated and refreshingly unpredictable storyline, Paper Towns is so incredibly good that it totally surprised me with its quality. It has a jarring shift in tone and it should have been less comedic, but this is a movie that is so relevant and poignant with a couple of truly amazing quotes which are truthful, observant and so hard-hitting. It is a movie that has both brain and soul and it is one of the best teen films I have ever seen and a future classic without a doubt.

My Rating – 4,5

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When Marnie Was There (2014)

When Marnie Was There

With this being probably and extremely sadly their last film, I am happy to say that When Marnie Was There is one of Studio Ghibli’s finest in a long time and one of their most emotional. It was released in 2014 and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl Anna Sasaki who is extremely shy and unhappy with herself. Her foster parents send her to a small rural town to spend time with her relatives and recover because she is suffering also from asthma. There she meets a young, beautiful girl named Marnie in an old deserted mansion which comes alive when she is near. And you have a mystery when Marnie disappears and whether or not she was real and who she was. This story is absolutely fantastic throughout the whole running time because not only is it intriguing and incredibly involving but also very deep and multi-layered. The first act is a perfect introduction, the final act is a beautiful conclusion which is very emotional but also very grounded and immensely satisfying. And the second act is filled with such a well executed mystery that you cannot fail to get fascinated by it.

But the themes, wow what themes. You have a girl who has asthma and who is very shy, introverted and literally has no friends whatsoever. But the movie ends with her being able to cope with that instead of her gaining friends which is incredibly bold, refreshing and realistic. Only Ghibli could make such an ending and they are masters because of the universal truths they tell and moral lessons they teach in their movies. Anna also has a problem with her mother owing to her realization that they have been paid to parent her the whole time. That is some powerful stuff right there and the movie explores the troubles of parenthood, orphans and adoption in such a sophisticated and mature way that is helpful for children but also very welcome for adults to see.

The characters are all very likable, very grounded and beautifully realized thanks to some terrific character development on display here. Anna is so realistic as a shy person that cannot love herself and I found her character very similar to my personality which is why this movie resonated with me so much. Marnie is excellent as well as a girl who seems perfect on the surface but who has her troubles with living in a large house with servants who treat her poorly. And the reason why characterization is so great is because the supporting, smaller characters all have personalities as well. The Oiwa relatives are very likable and very dear people who treat Anna wonderfully, Sayaka is great as a girl who arrives later in the mansion and who wants to help Anna find out who Marnie is because she loves mysteries, while Hisako is endearing and Toichi is very memorable as the lonely and moody fisherman who in personality resembles the protagonist so much.

The animation is unbelievably breathtaking, Studio Ghibli mastered the craft of hand-drawn animation and it can easily be seen here. This is one of their less artistic and more accessible animated pieces with warm and pleasing colors, wonderful imagery, terrific interior as well as exterior and a style to spare. But the attention to detail is remarkable with sun on the water, clothing as well as facial expressions and great character design. This is definitely one of their most beautiful to look at animated films.

As for the flaws, well, I have just a couple of them that hurt the movie. Mainly some of the sequences can get too emotional with too many emotional outbursts and the movie can get way too convoluted in the second act with troublesome narrative at times and too mysterious story. And I also think the film for this complex and deep story needed much longer running time instead of the usual hour and a half which animated films usually get. That was certainly disappointing how short it is. But overall those are small flaws that do not take much away from this remarkable feature film.

Technically, it is a splendid film. The editing is mostly very good, the pacing is smooth and the direction from Hinomasa Yonebayashi is incredibly good. And I am happy to follow him and how he evolves as a director because his ‘The Secret World of Arrietty‘ was one of their weaker films while When Marnie Was There is a work from a major director how great it looks and he definitely could become one of the greats in the future. Also, the acting is absolutely marvelous with every voice actor giving a terrific performance and doing their job wonderfully. The score is once again beautiful and the dialogue is mature. The film manages to have both brain and heart which is fascinating in and out of itself. And how does this movie stand in the Studio Ghibli canon? I am happy to say that it is their very best in a long time and even better than ‘Kaguya‘ which was absolutely amazing. It will go down in history as one of their classics and I am so proud of them.

With expectedly breathtaking and incredibly pleasing animation, heartwarming conclusion, likable and grounded characters, realistic approach and complex and mysterious story filled with deep themes and ideas, When Marnie Was There is a marvel to behold and although too emotional and too convoluted at times, it is mostly a feast for the eyes and soul, a movie that has both brain and heart and which is not afraid to be brave and show realistic characters and grounded ending tackling some serious and very mature subject matter. I am happy to say that this is one of Studio Ghibli’s finest movies in a long time, but I am sad that it is probably their last. Art cannot survive in this cruel 21. century, a century of profit and stupid entertainment for the masses.This is simply a beautiful film from a wonderful Studio and my heart will be broken if it remains their last.

My Rating – 4.5

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